Focusing in on Student Engagement and Hope


tCareer readiness preparation begins long before a student makes it to college and begins pursuing internships to explore strengths and interests. It even begins before high school, when students are making postsecondary decisions.

Career readiness largely hinges on success students experience when they are much younger – even back to fifth grade!

The Gallup Student Poll (Fall 2015) measures four dimensions of student success – engagement, hope, entrepreneurial aspiration and career/financial literacy – and analyzes how those impact student behavior. The poll is administered to U.S. students, grades 5 – 12.

For example, students who are “engaged” and “hopeful” are 4.6 times more likely to say they do well in school than “actively disengaged” and “discouraged” students.

The aim of the Gallup Student Poll is to enable superintendents, principals and educators to take direct action based on the results to provide a more robust educational experience. This early action is critical in preparing students for college and the workforce.

One of the most interesting pieces of data from the poll relates to entrepreneurial aspirations. A staggering 42% of respondents indicate they plan to start their own business. However, these aspirations dwindle as students get older, especially for females, indicating that entrepreneurial aspirations should be identified and supported in middle school.

Of the respondents, 50% were “engaged,” 29% were not engaged and 21% were actively disengaged, meaning they are totally disconnected from the learning environment.

The data finds that engagement is different across the age groups. As you go up by grade, engagement goes down. For example, 75% of fifth graders are engaged at school, while 33% of 10th graders are engaged at school.

This suggests students are not getting the needed mentorship as they go through school and are not receiving praise and recognition.

  • 48% of students are hopeful
  • 34% of students are stuck
  • 18% of students are discouraged

When students know what they do best and have opportunities to develop their strengths, they are more motivated and enthusiastic about learning and are more likely to be engaged at school. High engagement in primary and secondary school, especially a focus on “hope” (defined as ideas and energy students have for the future), can only improve postsecondary and career outcomes.

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